A professional peer in the U.K. recommended a wonderful book to me last year. This selection has placed the Iranian election upheaval into rather clear focus on many levels. For those who hadn't read or heard his name prior to the Iranian election, Mir Hossein Musavi may have drawn a complete blank in most Western minds. But his name must be linked with that of Ali Shari'ati to fully grasp the tenacity, nature, and ideology of this political firebrand. Long before he became a current day political power with which to be reckoned he was swept up within an earlier revolutionary fervor. Musavi cut his revolutionary teeth during the heady days prior to the flight of the Peacock, a rather bumpy flight, at that!
Ali Shari'ati is considered by many to be the ideological father of the Iranian Revolution. Receiving his Ph.D in Paris and living within a geographic locale and specific timeline where an active hub of ideas created many ideological spokes, Shari'ati returned to Iran with a few new ideas of his own. Bringing galvanized thought to the political stage, first at Mashhad University, and later at Hosseiniyeh Ershad, Shari'ati accomplished two things. He created a vortex of thought by delivering impassioned and fiery speeches which were a mix of progressive Islam with a welding arc of Marxism. He also created a funnel into the resistance movement with Ershad as a staging area and (possibly) covert recruitment depot. As a young adult Mir Hossein Musavi attended Ershad lectures, admired Shari'ati and maintained a friendship with him.
When the earth began to quake under the Shah, Ali Shari'ati and many others were arrested by SAVAK. The lesser lights were sent to Evin Prison. But men such as Shari'ati were sequestered at the Komiteh prison. This facility, known for interro-torture of political prisoners. (Navy Petty Officer Sam Gillette, and several other Americans, were placed in this prison during the Tehran hostage crisis. This account can be read in "Guests of the Ayatollah" by Mark Bowden)
While not able to verify whether Mir Hossein Musavi spent time within the prison system or was even interrogated by SAVAK, he represents the face of many Iranians who joined in an earlier struggle. It is an older face, more experienced, but from what has been seen in recent days that of a man who retains a revolutionary heart. He has been out on the streets again, this time leading the pack.
It has saddened me to consider some of the words being issued from the cleric community in Iran, the brash and reckless boasting of president Ahmadinejad. They speak of dealing "with cruelty" against the leaders of the protest. Such bold and cock-strutting words. Such horrors await the few.
As for Ali Shari'ati, he died on 18 June 1977 in Southampton, U.K. The coroner's report attributes his demise to coronary failure. Others, voice the opinion that he was poisoned by SAVAK.
The biography of Ali Shari'ati is what I term a "political IED" in my personal library and is retained on the top shelf. Anything which makes my top shelf has an honored position. It is an invaluable source book for any who are interesting in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
An Islamic Utopian
*Editors note: You will find the reference to Mir Hossein Musavi on page 319.
*The Persians take a roll of the dice with Hafiz. Here is my "third roll". smile
Monday, June 29, 2009
A professional peer in the U.K. recommended a wonderful book to me last year. This selection has placed the Iranian election upheaval into rather clear focus on many levels. For those who hadn't read or heard his name prior to the Iranian election, Mir Hossein Musavi may have drawn a complete blank in most Western minds. But his name must be linked with that of Ali Shari'ati to fully grasp the tenacity, nature, and ideology of this political firebrand. Long before he became a current day political power with which to be reckoned he was swept up within an earlier revolutionary fervor. Musavi cut his revolutionary teeth during the heady days prior to the flight of the Peacock, a rather bumpy flight, at that!
Saturday, June 27, 2009
A song of distress
For the people of South Carolina
And of course, for Mrs. Sanford
"You Picked a Fine Time"
One real option:
Choose one. You can't have both.
Governor, you already picked the wrong "king" for analogy. This is the analogous situation.
Abdication of a King for the woman he loved.
Friday, June 26, 2009
With the DPRK leadership threatening nuclear blitzdom and fire-breathing dragons it is always good to remember that behind every sporting government are the cheerleaders whooping it up on the sidelines. No team worth its salt hits the field without a couple of pretty sidekicks. In this case, the DPRK has more that a few nations who might be cheerfully watching for the sweat on the brow of "the friendlies".
"China views itself as a nation intent on rising peacefully, its behavior marked by humility, noninterference, and friendly relations with all."
Do you ever read a statement and feel like a few brains cells were sucked right out of your skull in the process? The effervescent Fareed Zakaria wrote the aforementioned in his book, "The Post-American World". (p.114)
The "view" is actually a bit different in some regards, depending on how the writer aggregates and delivers the journalistic parcel. It kind of comes down to one of the Swofford Rules of Journalism: Every aggregate of facts can potentially be nullified by some fool who has the time to aggregate a separate and opposing set of facts. Tiananem Square is old news. The Hainan Island incident where 24 members of an EP-3 Navy flight crew were sequesterd by the Chinese for eleven days is more recent news, as is the infamous "Hawaiian Good Luck Sign" offered up to our Navy Fleet trying to make a port of call in Hong Kong for Thanksgiving. What is ongoing news, is the Chinese economic espionage and patent theft which we must guard against. Intellectual property theft is how to accomplish R & D on the cheap. So to showcase China as a benign and benevolent power may be a bit premature. Throw in the never-ending fight over Taiwan since the days of Chiang Kai-shek and seeing the DPRK bare a few nuclear teeth might just have a few Chinese officials popping a beer in celebration. There is no love lost between the Chinese or American government regarding this particular political boil.
What about Russia? God knows when the USSR dissolved into nothingness the U.S.A. had her hands full worrying about nuclear assets rolling around on the black market. Beyond that, we worried about the unemployed scientific community responding like mail order brides to the highest bidder . We may have snagged Alibek from the bio-weapons community, but it was the nuclear scientific community which had a high priority for our government. Moving to the present, we now deal with issues such as Fradkov and the Russian external intelligence apparatus, where economic espionage is most likely a flanking duty for the staff. So while Bush II may have looked into Putin's soul and viewed a sea of tranquility..... well, you know what I mean. smile
Iran, albeit facing election woes of their own, certainly might be cheering for the DPRK. One never knows what Iran is up to these days.
Pakistan, although struggling to keep from imploding into various cobbled fiefdoms, did grace the world with Dr. Khan. Although esteemed as the father of a nuclear Pakistan, his part-time hobby within the nuclear blackmarket made him an entrepeneur extraordinaire. Ahhh, the cheerleaders.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Trouble has been brewing for quite some time and in Texas our fights can be as big as our state! A controversial religious ember sparked into full flame recently in the ethical realm when time came around for the yearly traditional "church directory" at an area Baptist Church. In the Bible Belt the Baptist denomination can cook up a mean pot of chili and pull off the biggest fish fry in the county when putting their hand to it. They can also kick up the dust and attend their regional conventions fully armed and loaded. They showed their gut again, this week.
So why the big fight? It all started with photography. Yep, the lowly photograph. Many churches have now upgraded their directories to include pictures of "la familia". That way if you cannot remember old "what's his name" and want to call him about your yard sale merely scan the directory for a picture and link to the forgotten name. "Right! Now I remember! It is Bill Z. Bub!"
But now Beelzebub is loose in the church, leading the worship and teaching your kids in Sunday School. And yes, the Smackdown involves the place and function of active and open homosexual communities in the house of God.
In this particular case, the demise of Broadway Baptist as a member of the Southern Baptist Convention came down to something as simple as the church directory. Their pastor was amenable to allowing photos of same-sex couples. Later backing down on the issue the functionality of this particular church directory fell into total collapse when the church opted for "group membership photos" instead. Baptist weenies.
What are my feelings on this issue? They are principle-based. Does an organization have the right to hold to a tradition and standard or must it bend to the will of popular culture? Does Boy Scouts of America have to submit to the pressure to admit girls, or can they continue to serve the needs of growing boys? They have a foundation which should not be touched. Can a support group for widows of cancer victims serving the needs of that specific demographic be forced to admit widows who lost a spouse to suicide? Or for purposes of organizational integrity can they keep their foundational vision? And most importantly, can the Christian church hold to a standard of morality which simply states, "We are not better than you. We are merely standardbearers of our doctrine and our creed."
Christianity teaches that in the beginning God breathed into man and he became a speaking spirit. We are just an old earth tent with vocal cords. But our lives do speak. We are "living epistles, read by men". The Church retains the right to hold to the Epistle its self, the Word of God. And in the domain of man, the umbrella organizations such as the Southern Baptist Convention retain the right to discipline members who deviate from the standard doctrinal belief. Without adherence to our teachings, we cease to exist as the Church of Jesus Christ. Regarding the rest, I leave it to the people in the trenches. But let's stir it up in the comments. Keep it polite. Passion is certainly allowed but not derogatory vulgarity directed toward any one person. Thank you.
Fort Worth Star Telegram coverage
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
We've all seen the photo of the 18-year-old Belgian girl who got 56 stars tattooed on her face. The story has come out that her father threw a fit, so she told him she fell asleep after asking for 3 tattoos. Hmmm... Drunk people getting tattoos is cliché, like in Jimmy Buffett's song "Margaritaville": "But it's a real beauty. A Mexican cutie. How it got here I haven't a clue." As they say, it's a cliché for a reason. Kimberley Vlaminck later admitted that she had asked for the full "skin art" that she received. Maybe the lawsuit against the obviously sensitive and self-restrained tattoo artist (below) will be dropped. I'm not sure it should be, but I haven't heard all the details.
I won't supply you with the website of the Jim Rose Circus, because it's kind of sickening, being lifted by hooks in your skin and that kind of thing. Think of the "Hellraiser" movies. No, that one will be on you, not me. I first became aware of their acts on the X-Files, back in the last century. The "entertainer" Paul Lawrence that goes by the name of "The Enigma" has most of his body tattooed in blue jigsaw puzzle pieces. While it's a good edge for a sci-fi show, I'm pretty sure that some of his kids' friends (if he has any kids) aren't allowed to visit his home, and that he scares old ladies at the supermarket (if he eats normal food). Maybe he's a nice guy, but in reality first impressions might be the final impressions.
I've seen a few rebellious fads in my time. The Age of Aquarius 60s long hair, facial hair, unshaved legs, and cutoff jean shorts. The Disco 70s afros, permed afros, sequins and spandex. The Butt Rock 80s stone-washed jeans, mullets and Texas bouffants on crack, and men wearing make-up -- a great decade for the beauty retail industry. The Grunge 90s purple and green hair, plaid shirts and Birkenstocks. However, those are all temporary appearances. Tats are forever. Well, unless you have alot of money and a tolerance for the pain of lasers.
I know we're at the end of this decade, but what is the legacy of the 00's high-schoolers and college-aged kids? Are they so assured, in these jaded days, that they are above the fray? Maybe they have no need to be "one of the crowd" of many who represent the same thing? Hey, you can still get a fast food job with full sleeves of tattoos on your arms and the Kama Sutra tattooed around your neck.
No, these people are special. Just read their ink. A guy's bicep portrait of (for an example) Tupac or maybe their favorite sports star says everything you need to know about him. I saw a picture of the actress in the Transformers movies, Megan Fox. She has a tattoo of Marilyn Monroe on her arm. Why?? One of my heroes is Winston Churchill, but I don't want his face on my ass. (The only place it would fit.)
On the other hand, I know a few kids, tattooed and not, who were at impressionable ages when 9/11 happened. I know it knocked me for a loop. No matter how a kid tries to express the feelings about external influences and threats over the past 8 years, maybe it was one of those moments in life that caused them to think about the true balance of life. Maybe that's why they want to get all of their information about themselves out NOW. Their skin says: "Here's what you know about me up front, because my subconscious knows how fragile is life."
I'm not saying all tattoos are bad. I admire the cultural tattoos of the tribes of (for an example) New Zealand, Africa, and America. I have friends and family members who have tattoos that have meaning. One lost his father about 5 years ago and tattooed their last name on his left pec. One has the cartoon character that she and her deceased mother loved tattooed on her shoulder. A couple have Christian crosses. Several have military tattoos, some done overseas.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
When working as a staff nurse in Interventional Radiology, I administered radiolabeled monoclonal antibodies to clients. I was also present for medical care such as intrathecal chemotherapy. Both handling and administering any nuclear material, (think of your nuclear medicine tech) or chemotherapeutic agents requires an unusual skill set. The process of obtaining and administering such treatments are laden with protocol, checks and double checks. Working in PACU, gave me experience handling post-operative clients who had received radioactive seeds into the prostate. All such treatments require high level care for cancer victims.
But what measures should be taken against a treatment facility when the cancer victim is found to be secondarily injured by piss-poor, reckless care administered by a physician, most likely covered up by nursing staff, and then swept aside by both the hospital, and possibly.... gulp.... the Nuclear Regulatory Commission? Add one more tongue of a newt to this witches brew: The facility is part of the Veterans Administration, tasked to care for our wounded warriors.
When I tell you that I am furious, you really have no idea what that means. It takes a lot to tick off LCDR Swofford. But this bit of news of radioactive seeds and damaged rectums, is quite the medical shaft. The New York Times titles their article, "At V.A. Hospital, A Rogue Cancer Unit". I looked up the word rogue. It is a dishonest, knavish person; a scoundrel. Personally, some of the words I wish to write are better not used in mixed company; unless of course, in the field with my beloved Marines.
Here is the link.
My stroke-level blood pressure is two-fold.
*Why was a physician more suited to veterinary medicine allowed to treat our veterans in manner more brutal than that we allow our family pets? I would give my dog a better treatment option than a 79% botch rate, which is what this brachytherapy procedure produced at the V.A. facility in question.
*Why were medical mistakes covered and not admitted? The tissue of lies at this cancer unit smack of criminal negligence. Personally, if I were an R.N. involved in multiple FUBAR brachytherapy procedures I would fire myself!
Of course there is the pesky little bit of news that the monitoring equipment was also broken. My facility has aborted surgical procedures for less. We once aborted a procedure in one suite because a fly was spotted buzzing around when the client was wheeled into the room. A new room was secured for the procedure.
The V.A. probably gives decent care overall. (?) But should they be unable to function as a center of excellence in certain areas their care must be outsourced to private facilities such as my own, which certainly give a damn that our interventional and invasive procedure success rate stay close to the one hundred percent mark.
LCDR Tammy Swofford, USNR, NC
Monday, June 22, 2009
"I think this is serious and will lead to a lot of bloodshed and instability. ( i hope to God that i am proved wrong though as that is the last thing that part of the world needs right now). I also do not believe that Ahmadinajad would have lost even without the obvious gerrymandering that took place. He had enough support in the rural areas to see him through at least to a run off. But the mullahs panicked when they saw the crowds that were coming out in support of Mousavi and decided to end it in the first round. Khamenei had the opportunity to put it right in his Friday sermon yesterday. He could have come out as the honest arbitrator, ordered an impartial investigation and taken the heat out of the situation. Instead he decided to come out fighting on the side of Ahmadinajad. His position is now totally compromised and the result is more support for Mousavi and more unrest. If there is a glimmer of hope it is that Hashemi Rafsanjani could emerge as a compromise candidate and Ahmadinajad be allowed to step down gracefully. It is a long shot but if the mullahs dont play their cards right we could be in for a repeat of 1979."
*Dialogue with a professional Shi'a in the U.K.
When writing the prior blog on the Iranian election process last week the nagging fear which I harboured was expressed by my friend in his words to me on Saturday: "a repeat of 1979". With each passing day it appears Iran is on the cusp of yet another historic event, approximately thirty years after Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned from exile to a throng of millions of Shi'a Muslims lining the streets from the airport into Tehran. The Sayyed influenced the Shi'a political process in strong play for greater than five decades with his writings and speeches spanning the 1940's (Islam is not a Religion of Pacifists) right up unto the end of his life. (On the Nature of the Islamic State, September 8, 1979) Revolutionaries require cauldrons of blood.
Earlier this year I archived this article, which gives a small toe-hold onto the ledge of political thought. Seeking to understand the vast complexities encountered within the various Muslim communities in Iran is difficult, as our government has not had an embassy on Iranian soil since 1979 and the Tehran hostage crisis. As you read the link remember that which is expressed is the opinion of one player on the stage. It showcases that the political tensions within the borders of Iran are closely watched and monitored by the vast diaspora of Iranian intellectuals residing in the West.
Regarding the tradition of the rule of the jurisprudent (Waliyat-al-Faqih), it is established that the jurist rules over the king. So while the apparent "king" would be a certain president Ahmadinejad the guidance and rule of the Ayatollah chain of command may be the house with the leaking roof.
Of extreme concern is the sequelae of the massive demonstrations on the streets of Tehran. This season of unrest will certainly cause destabilization of the existing political order. The children of the Shi'a Twelvers who assisted in the toppling of the Shah, now appear to be engaged in a bit of revolution for their own generation. The capability of the traditions to coalesce with the secular will determine the future of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Words of the Grand Ayatollah
Saturday, June 20, 2009
While SecDef Robert Gates proclaims our military and missile defense system ready for anything the DPRK can toss our way, it is good to pause and reflect on the monumental havoc caused by the Korean Conflict. Here are the statistics, as presented by the Navy regarding the SitRep in South Korea at the time of cessation of hostilities.
*Nine million homeless or refugees
*500,000 homes destroyed and an equal number damaged
*Eighty percent of hospitals demolished
*100,000 orphans (loss of both parents)
The Navy began coordinated relief operations in Seoul, Inchon, Pusan and Masan. Hospitals and clinics were rebuilt. Land was secured for orphanages with a purchase of rice land in Pyongteck by MAG-12 so this particular orphanage could be self-sustaining. MAG-12 sponsored The Eden of Paradise Orphanage. The 7th Motor Transport Battalion purchased weaving machines for the people of Puja-Gun County to produce rice bags so that industry could be revived. "Operation Goodwill" secured clothing for a hospital in Pusan and "Operation Love" delivered 30 tons of clothing (donated from the U.S.A.) to the port at Inchon. The Marines in MAG-33 gave enough money in 1951 to build a Catholic Church. The USS Battan also delivered a large shipment of clothing to the needy of Pusan. These are but a few of the acts of kindness displayed by the USMC and Navy community on behalf of the South Korean people.
I share all of the above to remind you that our military forces do not have a history of plundering either population or landscape, but in post-conflict environments do their best to sustain and assist the weakened and vulnerable of war. These traditions continue to this day and serve as reminder to our uniformed services that behind each rifle, a human heart.
Friday, June 19, 2009
"Last year I had an affair. I violated the vows of my marriage. It is the worst thing I have ever done in my life. If there was ever anything in my life that I could take back, this would be it."
—Senator John Ensign, R-Nevada, reading from a prepared statement (16 June 2009)
Any person who has dealt with adultery within their marriage, or observed the implosion of a marriage due to infidelity will readily admit the messy nature of these things. None of us with the view from the outside can cast a stone if we believe the command of the One who best understood human nature. But it does seem that certain impracticalities deserve a bit of review.
A rise to power opens the door to sexual favors. No doubt about it. People are attracted to success, on every level. Hey, I am not shy about discussing these things. A man in a suit with a solid education, business card and expense account looks good to me. But the young college male at the mall directing me to the handbag selection provides an encounter I will forget thirty seconds later. Powerful men are powerful magnets. That is why women need to test the force field of a powerful boss to determine a safe boundary. That being said, offering sexual favors to the boss opens the door for your boss' next job to be the one at the mall directing you to the handbag selection. A carefully cultivated rise to power can end in a moment when the media hyenas get the first whiff of an extramarital affair. Rule number one of corporate interpersonal relationships never changes: Keep the relationships professional.
*For the boss: Don't sleep with the hired help.
*For the hired help: Don't sleep with the boss.
So if you are going to have an extramarital affair, find a lover in Bangladesh, or maybe Uzbekistan. Don't ever let the person in the adjacent office or cubicle entice you!
As far as "the other woman", it appears Mrs. Hampton enjoyed a promotion and two pay raises for the extracurricular activities provided for Senator Ensign. The flip side of this coin is that she is now unemployed and it is highly unlikely Mrs. Hampton will ever again work as a campaign staffer, unless of course, there is a job opening in Zimbabwe or possibly the Arctic Circle. I call this the dreaded "Lewinsky Effect". She might as well stamp the word "leper" on her forehead should she ever slide her resume across the desk of an elected official.
Now with rumors swirling that Senator Ensign possibly had an earlier affair I am reminded of his statement that this is the worst thing he has ever done in his life. Is it now the worst mistake because he is sorry or is it the worst mistake because he was caught? There is a big difference, ya' know. That being said, there is an old saying about the distinct manner in which men and women face temptation. If the woman slams the door, the man will crawl away slowly, cheerfully hoping that the temptation will still overtake him. In this case, it appears neither party crawled away fast enough.
But back to Jesus. I can't cast the first stone, because He said only people who had never committed a sin were qualified. I sure won't tell you how many chocolate chip cookies I ate yesterday, but it was a sinful amount of carbs. burp
But in high profile cases such as this one, stones are not necessary. Adultery has its own dynamic penalty phase when the marital infraction involves an elected official. I truly am sorry that the two individuals in question did not think things through more clearly before they took such risks. Senator Ensign will pay a high price for sleeping with a staff member. The staff member in quesion, will suffer under the Lewinsky effect.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
God help us! Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and presidential economic advisor Lawrence Summers are beating the drum for regulatory reform. Where’s Moe? We have Larry and Curly.
The following paragraph from their June 15 Washington Post essay will explain my concern: “First, existing regulation focuses on the safety and soundness of individual institutions but not the stability of the system as a whole. As a result, institutions were not required to maintain sufficient capital or liquidity to keep them safe in times of system-wide stress. In a world in which the troubles of a few large firms can put the entire system at risk, that approach is insufficient."
Horsefeathers! What these two geniuses have said is we need new regulations because the old regulations were not enforced. Why do they believe the new regulations will be enforced either? Geithner and Summers don’t blame anyone, probably because so many of the culprits are economists. I am thinking of Ken Lay, who rigged markets and thus destroyed trust; Phil Gramm, who destroyed both the banking system and the commodities market; and Alan Greenspan, who hid the fact that he had no idea what he was talking about behind walls of impenetrable prose.
Since Geithner sat at Greenspan’s feet, perhaps he is not the best person to attempt to fix that which his mentor wrecked. They do say the second cause of the disaster was the dramatic growth in financial activity outside the traditional banking system, but fail to mention that the financial industry paid Phil Gram and other members of Congress a king’s ransom for a law that would let this happen. It is probably for that reason that the foxes have been invited back into the henhouse as “experts.”
Despite 70 years of contrary evidence, Geithner and Summers claim that the current regulatory regime cannot protect the consumer and that the federal government does not have the tools it needs to contain and manage financial crises. I’m sorry. It is not the tools that need changing so much as the men who don’t know how to use them that need to be changed.
Obama, you blundered! Let Geithner pursue the career in standup comedy that he recently unveiled in China and let Summers resume his study of women’s issues. He made such a promising start while president of Harvard, it would be a shame if he were stopped now.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
1. the making of false and slanderous statements
2. the act of maliciously uttering false charges or misrepresentations to harm another's reputation
from Latin calumnia "to deceive", from Greek kēlein "to beguile"
It has been three months since Laura Ling and Seung-Un "Euna" Lee were arrested by North Korean soldiers on or near the frozen Tuman River. According to the state-owned Korean Central News Agency, the American women crossed without permission from China into the DPRK's North Hamgyong Province in the early morning hours of March 17. There are many statements from the Communist nation that do not ring true, but I do not have a hard time believing that the Chinese-American VP/correspondent and the South Korean-American film editor, both in their 30s, may have gotten a souvenir stone's throw too close to their subject matter.
The assignment was meant to expose the plight of female defectors who escape from North Korea into China, including stories of prostitution, forced marriages, and human trafficking. Producer/cameraman Mitch Koss and a North Korean-Chinese guide accompanied the women. Koss was held and interviewed by the Chinese government for several days, then released. He is safe at home and has not issued any public statements, likely at the advice of the State Department and his boss, Al Gore. The Chinese citizen, himself a defector from North Korea, is still being held by Chinese police. He is suspected of tipping off the border guards. I think I'd almost rather be in Ling-Lee's shoes.
On a side note, Ling and Lee are a part of the Vanguard Journalism department at Current TV, which Gore founded and of which he owns half. A quick search of the website for any news on the international incident comes up blank. Not even a simple "We hope our colleagues are home soon". Zip, zilch, zero. Not exactly "Boss of the Year" material, Al.
An unusually long trial was held at the Central Court in Pyongyang from June 4 - 8. Cases are typically decided immediately. There were no witnesses or experts called. I'm not sure if the pair's digital photos or six video tapes of material were shown. Probably not. Regardless, anything other than a guilty verdict would have been an admission of a wrongful arrest. If Kim Jong Il would have subsequently been dissatisfied with the proceedings, it could have resulted in firings. Maybe worse. According to the DPRK, the women admitted they committed criminal acts, "prompted by the political motive to isolate and stifle the socialist system of the DPRK by faking up moving images aimed at falsifying human rights performance and hurling slanders and calumnies at it." Makes them sound vulnerable to undeserved attacks, doesn't it?
To stop this supposed unwarranted threat and, let's not fool ourselves, to buy some time in the six-party talks to disarm their missile program, the women were given the maximum sentence of 12 years of hard labor, according to Provision 44 of the Criminal Code. Their lives are probably not in immediate danger. Their living conditions are probably somewhere between a seedy roadside motel and "Brokedown Palace". I doubt if they will be placed in the worst labor camps, working to the brink of exhaustion, and fed barely enough gruel to stay alive. There is concern for Ling's medical condition. It would be wise for the DPRK to keep the women alive, at least until they get what they want from the U.S. and her allies.
I have to admit it, though. If there are any arms concessions made to the DPRK in trade for these two brave, but perhaps moronic, journalists... Well, let's just say that in the case that they did willingly cross the border, I'm not sure they're being unjustly prosecuted and punished. If there are concessions made resulting in a loss of U.S. national security, I'm not sure we shouldn't consider filing treason charges against them. (Remember I'm in the range of one of those missiles.)
It's one thing to go to countries like the DPRK with permission to film and to take your chances that way. These educated women obviously knew the risks of filming an investigative piece like this. To put it in Alaskan terms: If I walked into a hibernating grizzly sow's den, and she woke up and swiped my head off my shoulders, would it be the bear's fault?
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Patrick Swayze's TV series "The Beast" has been cancelled after its first season. Even though the ratings have not been great, I can't help but wonder if the reason for the decision might have had something to do with the deterioration of Swayze's health. Swayze, 56, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, a disease that normally hits people over 65. A visual comparison between Swayze today and in movies like "Road House" and "Point Break" are like night and day. The man is in a fight for his life, but less than 5% of patients live more than 5 years after diagnosis. Most die within a year.
My friend is one of those who didn't make it a full year. Dan died a couple of weeks ago of pancreatic cancer. His first symptoms were last August, when he felt constipated and could not keep any food down. When a mass was detected he underwent surgery, only to have the surgeon immediately close him back up. The tumor was too large and had connected itself to blood vessels. The operation could not be performed. He opted to undergo chemotherapy, in hopes of shrinking the tumor. Though he tried to rally for his wife, three children and seven grandchildren, he succumbed to the disease. He was only 63 years old, but looked 20 years older. If there was justice in the world, this good man would have lived those 20 years.
The American Cancer Society estimates that over 42,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, almost equally split between men and women. Of all the cancers, this one is a doozy. Many times symptoms do not appear until the cancer is already in a late stage. Even if detected early, surgery may be difficult or virtually impossible. Which leaves patients to take their chances with chemo and/or radiation therapy.
The video of Carnegie Mellon Professor, and pancreatic cancer victim, Randy Pausch's "Last Lecture" was intended for his family and as a goodbye to his beloved career, colleagues and students, as he prepared to get his affairs in order and to make sure his family was settled and secure before his death. When the video went viral, Pausch hit the talk show circuit with his invaluable message of making the best of the time you have.
Swayze is probably doing all the "right things" and taking good care of himself, but in reality will probably not recover his health. Pausch did not survive, but his legacy of living life to the fullest will live on through his video and best-selling book. Dan was too sick to enjoy the last 9 months of his life. He could only endure a limited amount of activity and required help for the simple things we take for granted. Toward the very end, he quit taking visitors and didn't want the grandchildren to see him in his weakened state. Rest in peace, Dan. You did good.
Monday, June 15, 2009
I am not an advocate of historical reincarnation because the idea is as senseless as believing that humans also engage such a cyclical existence. But that being said, history can seem to perform in repetitive manner on the world stage because humanity also responds in predictable fashion to certain societal stresses and pressures. Political tension can bring the best and the worst of times, depending on who is hurt at a Ground Zero level of political activism. So while Iran is experiencing the worst political unrest in a decade and Tehran and Qom will continue to control the national chessboard, the cougar in the burlap bag, will be national memory.
Iran entertains the same political game they engaged under the heady days of Mossadeq with the dust-up regarding the oil nationalization program. Although Mohammed Mossadeq and Ayatollah Kashani sought to bring oil revenue and control assets under the domain of the state, a bit of political intrigue and chicanery by Kermit Roosevelt and the C.I.A. allowed for an orchestrated coup d'etat. This later ushered in the return of Reza Pahlavi and the Peacock throne. (Operation Ajax, 1953)
This era brought a heightened sense of the socio-political stakes within a nation which was still quite agrarian, yet had a growing intellectual class especially amongst university students. Not much has changed, regarding this particular demographic. Despite the nuclear aspirations of Iran it remains a nation saddled with poverty and socioeconomic disparity.
Fast forward to 1979 and the return of Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini from exile to kick a little butt himself. Behind the adoring peasants lining the road, was the shadowy intellectual class which brought him home in tandem with the traditional cleric class awaiting with open arms. The intellectuals and the clerics somewhat laid aside their differences, to bring a regime change. On the side of the clerics was young university student, Ahmadinejad. Name sound familiar?
As in all Iranian politics, a political tripartite provides for the balancing act of national politics. The king of the chessboard, whether on Iranian soil or not, is the recognized Grand Ayatollah and any other Ayatollah aligned with him. Because of Shi'a doctrine, this man holds the center of the board for most Shi'a. On the right side of him, the tradition-bound Iranians undergirded by the cleric class and on the left, the modernist and youthful university-bred intellectuals. Some of these hold a strange political amalgam of Marxism, democracy and Shi'a Islam within their ranks. It is a mecurial intellectualism, and these are undoubtedly the people on the streets torching buildings and risking their hides.
The three groups manage to function within concentric circles of influence on a national level, but on the international stage the diaspora of Iranian intellectuals abroad certainly has a hand in what is happening on the ground in Tehran today.
In Iran, many of the young firebrands of the hour later undergo a mellowing political process which places them within the traditional circle later in life. But in the meantime, all three groups in small measure give a sense of striving for a balance of power within an extremely mosaic and Muslim-majority landscape. President Ahmadinejad will retain the presidency as he has the nod from the Grand Ayatollah. Mir Hossein Mousavi will become the symbol of a powerful oppositional power bloc. A few hundred people will be hauled off to jail. And life will go on, in Iran.
The Political Ruckus
Sunday, June 14, 2009
As a civilian I endured a five month period of paperwork and background checks to receive my direct commission, and subsequent security clearance to become a part of the Navy Nurse Corps community. Beyond the recruiter's offer of lunch at the base, interviews with officers, a "free" Navy key chain, coffee cup and canvas tote bag, I attended a regional conference for Nurse Corps officers. General Walter Boomer, USMC was one of the keynote speakers. Prior to his entrance, the military community was reminded of basic protocol such as requesting permission to address the officer, standing and giving recognition to the General but also clear identification of rate/rank, name, detachment and unit prior to asking a question.
Things moves smoothly until one young sailor received permission to speak. She entered into a politicized tirade against our foreign policy during Gulf I, and was rather insulting in both her remarks and intonation. When she finished there was a rather noticeable and uncomfortable silence. Even as a civilian, I understood the nature of what had just happened. In an even tone and with a few succinct facts, General Boomer responded to her remarks and then directed his attention to the next question. Undoubtedly the poor young lady received a major shake down later from her immediate chain of command. I hope she learned from the experience. But I also learned a valuable lesson, one which I would have never learned had I not chosen to join the Navy. Those who have rank, do not need to lower themselves to the level of the one beneath them who delivers an insult.
Governor Sarah Palin has rank. She is the governor of Alaska and also attained an additional measure of rank when chosen by the Republican Party to run alongside Senator John McCain during his quest for the presidency.
Last time I checked, David Letterman was still just a man seated behind a desk who is able to deliver silly lines and provide entertainment for the masses. The difference between a court jester and David Letterman is that the court jester entertains the king and Letterman entertains the peasants outside the moat.
But Governor Palin needs to learn to bear the weight of her rank with the understanding that protocol does not require her to respond to men such as Letterman who accuse her of a "slutty flight attendant" look. She is better served not stooping to his level. He is a yellow-bellied passive-aggressive coward or he would have said it to her face and with Todd within an arm's length of his throat.
Now should Todd care to take a swing at the man who insulted his wife, that is just fine with me. Letterman's rank, is also beneath that of another man's wife. But as for Sarah, she needs to keep her cool. She needs to accelerate her learning curve.
General Walter Boomer, USMC (Ret)
Saturday, June 13, 2009
The Swofford Team continues to take our small successes in stride. We continue to get interesting URL's coming to the site and certain key word hits find their way to specific blogs.
It is amazing how many people are searching under labels for Islamic Distance Learning and specifically, find the blog "Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik". It receives hits from across the world. There are also frequent looks at a blog I wrote on Fleet Hospital Dallas and for the book review of "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man".
-Blackfoot, gets recognition for the recent blogs on the Palin family and continues to provide the coverage from Alaska.
Dr. Jeff Cunningham receives constant recogniton for CSI Texas, his investigative reporting on the necrophilic porn industry. His work gave us a legal headache which is now resolved.
Tom Gordon is getting a peek this week for the book review he wrote on the Kenneth Ackerman book about J. Edgar Hoover.
Bob Miller is holding steady with returning readership: "Candid Fallacy: ABC News Hires the Strawman.
As of yet, not all posts have the necessary meta-tags as we add these in retro fashion when we have the time. So while Islamic Distance Learning appears to have little for reference, there are plenty of things in the archives should you be interested. A lot is available with a little bit of reconnaissance. "Moving into the Shi'a Power Grid" is a good place to start for those wishing a thumbnail sketch of the Grand Ayatollah chain of command structure. These sequential commentaries will get you started on your own reading program! And if you loved the movie "Men in Black", the blog with similar title should give you reason to smile.
These blogs can be found June 16-19 of 2008.
Next week, -Blackfoot will be covering the Tues-Wed slot and we will see if any others on the team are available to write. This blog, remains a fun place for all of us to hang our hats.
Friday, June 12, 2009
I have not seen the film "Borat" and do not intend to waste my money on "Bruno". Viewing the trailers was disgusting enough. While the media hammers away regarding educational decline and a deplorable state of functional illiteracy in our nation, I harbor an equally great concern. Moral illiteracy plagues our youth. Can things get much worse?
So what is moral illiteracy? Having pondered this issue after seeing the trailer for "Bruno" last week, the answer comes to me in simple manner. Moral illiteracy allows us to laugh at things which made our grandparents blush when speaking in quiet tones. We laugh at menage a trois. The platonic relationship portrayed on the sitcom "Three's Company" in the late 1970's would bore the youth of today. We laugh at a single gay male adopting an African baby traded for an iPod. We laugh about forty year old virgins and kids who want to lose their virginity at younger and younger ages. We laugh at desperate housewives and sex in the city. And just as thorns crackle in a fire, so goes the laughter of fools.
Our kids are laughing their way right into a cultural hell and unfortunately many adults are laughing right along with them. No debasement or debauchery of the human body is taboo when it comes to our viewing habits. Does it make anyone else uncomfortable to be seated behind an adult in the theater who is laughing right along with their pre-teen child over an outrageous scene? Catch the man handcuffed to the bed with a pillow in front of his privates telling the woman that the key was under the pillow? I caught that one on a trailer at the theater and watched as parents guffawed right along with their progeny.
When is the last time you walked out of a theater with your kids in tow? This mother has done it more than once. There have also been times where I have had to shut down an almost uncontrollable urge to stand on my seat in the theater and shout, "Can anyone tell me WHY we are laughing?!" Believe me when I tell you that I am not a Puritan. Sex is not dirty. That being said, our youth are having their common sense assaulted on every side. No wonder they are rutting like farm animals in every available space and little girls who still need braces on their teeth are offering oral sex to boys who haven't sprouted a hair on their skinny little chest.
Pop culture media must be dominated by script writers and producers who are scraping the shallow end of their own gene pools. Sadly, they are becoming fabulously wealthy as purveyors of filth. The Swofford family, tends to buy DVD's of our choice these days. We have a nice library of films which are thought-provoking, with superb acting, and beautiful musical scores. They are not devoid of either sensuality or sexuality. But Jackass the Movie, Borat and Bruno, will not make the cut. Movies which psychologically put women on meat hooks or glorify gay lifestyle when personally, I am suffering from gay fatigue, will also not be on our shelves.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Editorial note: In the coming months there will be increased entrance into the IB space for the public readership. Based on a lack of quality coverage and commentary on specific issues which are of vital consideration for Americans, you will see my movement in small manner from private to public corridor on this page. Today, a discussion on suicide bombings.
The internet has available sense data regarding both women and children as single-mission combatants. It is a foregone conclusion there is only one mission because once your DNA is splattered on the nearest tree, you cease to be of use for "the cause". Please note my muted use of "the cause" to describe what is happening in Muslim-majority nations today. Individuals blowing themselves and small child victims onto the roofs of homes in Iraq and elsewhere have most likely never digested simple concepts such as "multi-lateral treaty", "memorandum of agreement" or for that matter "due process". Their "cause" moves via indoctrination, and what is a vile bastardization of political remedy.
Moving through a children's book on Jihad I looked for what I call "signal and symbol" sense data as the first two levels of reading which I engage when doing research. Clever stuff. There is a lot the average person won't catch without ample background in Islamic studies. But the template within a children's book, echoed the word usage and thought process of an adult single-mission combatant.
Take a moment now and place yourself in the role of the parent. Taking little Johnny by the hand you enter the children's section of a local bookstore. Shall you purchase a book of children's fables? Maybe a story with pop-ups of dragons and snakes? Hmmm. No, here is what you are looking for and it is certainly a find! You can teach little Johnny the joys of martyrdom. And if you can't find a book on jihad for the kiddies via Amazon or your local library, some nice person on a message board will help you out. Did I mention, discreet cough, the recruitment book for children was written by a woman? So how long is it before mama straps on the magnificent obsession and has an "Aha" moment. Look for it. We will see an operational family unit in the future. And yes, psychologically, that will be one helluva show.
I used to admire men who could shed a tear in public. No more. Recently I plowed my way through a journalistic veil of tears with a man crying.... because he admires women who blow themselves up for, again, "the cause". While the movie "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" explored the world of interracial marriage, I cringe to think of this man cast in a new version.
"Hi, Mom! Guess who's coming to dinner? It is Anwar. Yes, yes! He wants me to blow myself up!"
Arab historian and theorist Ibn Khaldun believed that every civilization contained the necessary seeds for its own destruction. Ideological father of the Iranian Revolution Ali Shari'ati voiced his understanding that each revolution had two aspects: blood and the message. But what a bloody message it is, which is moving across the world today calling out civilians to perform single-mission targeting of other civilians.
When the one who nurtures and the one who needs nurture receive sense data which compel them to become single-mission combatants, the seeds for the implosion of a civilization are in the ground. I have addressed these issues, within the Islamic community in America.
Child Suicide bombers
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Do you remember when the space program was shiny and new? Each NASA mission captivated the world. Kids everywhere added "astronaut" to their lists of career choices. Toy cap guns became ray guns. Parents bought Tang and rationed their tin foil. The reports and images that were sent back to Earth cultivated our imaginations and expanded our horizons. Scientists hoped for technical success. People of faith prayed for these brave new 20th century explorers. Faithful scientists did both.
NASA is preparing to launch Mission STS-127 with the space shuttle Endeavor on Saturday morning at 07:17 (EDT). My internal clock will be in sync with the official countdown which starts today. Am I the only "lift-off junkie" out here who will be tuned into the NASA TV channel, or do you guys agree that leaving the boundaries of Earth's atmosphere is just freaking staggering? A Kennedy Space Center launch is on my list of things to do before I die, but I don't know if I'll make it before the shuttle program is retired.
(I always try to catch the landings, as well, but by the time we see the shuttle, it looks like a jet coming in for a landing. No less impressive for our astronauts, but somewhat more routine for the onlooker.)
As the mission designator signifies, this will be the 127th shuttle mission. The shuttle program has supplied hours upon hours of training and research, but it is not the end-all of NASA's aspirations. We want to do further exploration of the moon. We've had a sampling of landing on Mars, and we want to feel the Red Planet beneath our feet. And from there? Only time, money, innovation, national endorsement, and international teamwork will dictate how far we can go. The indomitable American spirit has already confirmed that we have the skill and mettle to exceed our own expectations.
We weren't the first to break Earth's bounds, but we have become the best. The United States has been leading the way, in partnership with a handful of other countries. It was interesting to hear how short-tempered Russia's ground control official sounded this morning, when she was talking to their cosmonaut, Commander Gennedy Padalka. Our mission control seems to be a bit more cordial, even humorous. Of course we have our testy moments, also. But we have this, literally, down to a science. Russia shows the symptoms of the pressure to catch up with us.
We have presumably performed our final maintenance on the Hubble Telescope, which has enabled us to see farther into the universe than X-ray telescopes would allow. We will continue to be a contributor to the International Space Station, our shared outpost. President Obama's new pick for the head of NASA, Charles Bolden, certainly looks good on paper and has a good amount of hands-on experience. He is also the first African-American Administrator. I'm sure he'll do a great job, and may inspire Obama to continue to support our established operations.
The space program is not without controversy. There are some people who think the space program is unnecessary, and that we should be pouring our resources into projects here on terra firma. Do you like your satellite TV? Your GPS? Tang? Our small steps might seem insignificant, but our potential for stretching out our legs onto our neighboring hunks of rock will likely be more utilitarian than cosmetic. The moon is more than an ottoman for our heavy Earth legs, and Mars may be more a lifesaver than a beanbag chair. Even if we don't colonize it, like alarmists fear, it could be a source for minerals or a missile base for incoming meteors.
The space program is also not without catastrophe. You've heard the expression "go big or go home". When you go big, there is the potential for big failure. The most vivid and disturbing occurrences were the tragedies of Challenger STS-51L in 1986 and Columbia STS-107 in 2003. I remember Ronald Reagan's moving remarks regarding the Challenger crew "slipping the surly bounds of earth to touch the face of God."
I don't believe that God is a limited entity that lives above the clouds. I believe His domain is in every blade of grass and in every sparrow in the sky, and that He is just a fraction more condensed in the hearts of those who believe in Him. I don't know how you can strap your ass to a rocket and not have faith in God. No matter what you call Him, I think that kind of trust is the true definition of religion.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
In a day of wireless applications such as Kindle it is a joy to discuss books with individuals who have actually seen, touched and read ancient manuscripts. When enquiring regarding Mantiq-al-Tair by Farid-ud-Din Attar, it was thrilling to learn a professional acquaintance was familiar with (having handled) a manuscript retained at Suleymaniya Library in Istanbul, from the days when he was completing his Ph.D studies. This particular library contains vast treasures of manuscripts in Arabic, Persian and Ottoman Turkish. While Attar is also well-known for another Persian work, Pand-i-Attar, today I will give a short review of Mantiq-al-Tair, which in translation is known by the title, “Conference of the Birds”.
The protaganist of this story is none other than the Hoopoe. This bird is mentioned one time within the pages of the Qur’an, and it seems a fitting match for the tale. Sulaiman gave a muster for the birds and the Hoopoe was the only one missing. Apparently, the adventurous Hoopoe had taken flight to do a bit of reconnaisance on his own.
In “The Conference of the Birds” the Hoopoe seeks to marshall other species of birds on a quest to locate their king. The nightingale, peacock, partridge, owl and duck all make an initial appearance in the story. Later, the stage is allegorically set to bring concepts and Sufi tradition to light. This story is steeped in Sufi mysticism and the mystery of love; the love of the created for his Creator.
Some of the cleverly deployed stories by the Hoopoe resound with common themes from other Persian Sufi thinkers. But when reading these things, my feminine emotional make-up thinks, “What a waste of a good man!” They write like poet Pablo Neruda, who describes the intoxicating love of a man for a woman. The Sufi crowd, intoxicates and satiates their emotional bank with god. Hence, lines such as this one:
“What business has sleep with the eyes of a lover? A true lover measures the wind during the day and counts the stars and measures the moon during the night.”
Attar is not drawing the audience toward the fleshly nourishment, but that which is spiritual. Such intoxication can be best visualized with whirling dervishes who dance until they collapse into a crumpled heap.
Within the vignettes exist variations of a beloved Middle Eastern tale of the madness of love. The poor man, Majnun, desires a woman whose family would not have spit on him, were he on fire. He is reduced to madness and nothingness in his quest for a forbidden love. Move over, "Romeo and Juliet". This is Shakespeare, all grown up. Multiple stories exist regarding this tragic love story and I will leave it to the reader to assemble the rest of the puzzle to the meaning of this tale.
In the end, the Hoopoe and a straggly, malnourished little platoon consisting of a grand total of thirty birds finish the quest. Out of millions of birds only these few have reached the door of the royal court. They have conquered self (Islamic concept of Nafs) and have come to the point so aptly described toward the end. It is the story of the butterfly and the candle. One after the other, the butterflies explore the mystery of the candle and its flame. Closer and closer they move until at last, one butterfly returns with singed wing. Yet not satisfied, we find this conclusion:
“Another butterfly therefore sprang forward, intoxicated with love, and flung its self with violence into the flame of the candle. Putting its hands (front feet) round the neck of the flame, it lost its self completely in the flame. When the fire spread over its whole body, all its limbs turned red like the flame." Ahhh, Sufi love!
View of a manuscript
Monday, June 08, 2009
There was a dirty little secret in athletics for the past 40 years or so. Athletics had become more lucrative and socially rewarding, as athletes were seen as warriors. Perhaps the hero title goes to the head a bit, sometimes. Athletes began training harder to become bigger, stronger and more competitive. NFL linemen were getting to be over 300 pounds, or they were out of work. Wide receivers were expected to have the fastest times possible for a human, which required extremely low body fat and very high levels of muscle content on the human frame. As pressure built upon the athletes to do the unthinkable, the athletes began doing themselves a short term favor by utilizing any and all chemicals that would get them a shot at fame and fortune. The anabolic steroid era had begun.
No person can say for sure when it really took effect in pro sports, but it can be traced back to at least the late 60’s by some researchers. It doesn’t matter for the sake of this blog, so I will not pursue a lot of links and quotes but rather observations.
Why did so many athletes take anabolic steroids? The answer is because the steroids worked, and they worked miracles. Individuals who could not bench press 200 pounds found themselves warming up at 225 pounds in a matter of weeks or months. The times for the 100 yard and 40 yard dash dropped drastically. Those who took performance enhancing drugs became more durable. Steroids are anti-inflammation drugs, so the healing process after injury was shortened greatly. If an athlete could get out in the world and make a seven figure salary by using these drugs, they presumed it was worth it. Thus, all athletic events started seeing much more competitive individuals with longer endurance and much more interesting events. NO sport was exempt from the pressure to perform. Relatively few athletes will admit to having taken anabolic steroids or human growth hormone. Mostly, they deny in a very vocal fashion that they have taken them. In essence, many of them lie. Now, this is not to say that ALL athletes were dirty. At different times in the past 40 years or so, the percentages likely varied greatly. I cannot fathom Bob Lilly taking steroids. Similarly, I cannot imagine Jose Canseco being clean. He probably never would have made the big leagues were it not for the steroids. In a strange way, I admire Jose for telling the truth (even though it was done for a book deal). Had it not been for Canseco, you probably would still be greatly in the dark about just how badly steroids were abused.
Before I continue, let me say that the outrage by baseball, football and other organizations is probably a bit disingenuous. You cannot convince me that the owners and coaches of professional sports did not know that something was up when the athletes improved in a period of 4 months by gaining 40 pounds and increasing the bench press by 150 pounds. It can be done naturally, I believe, but it would take months if not years to equal that feat. So, a blind eye was in play. One steroid dealer from the 1980’s was busted. He was a driver for a major delivery service. He had steroids shipped to his clients and delivered them himself. At that point in time, it was not considered a controlled substance as it is today and there was no effort to squeeze him down. He got off with probation and he got out of the business. However, he had delivered drugs to athletes both known and unknown for years, from the local gym, colleges and pro’s. Steroids were not as expensive back then, so he made a good living, but did not get wealthy. Now, they are very expensive but still easily found in a gym environment, once you establish yourself as being a trustworthy individual. It is a closed shop these days due to federal investigators.
Why am I writing about this? I am telling you this as a warning. The side effects of steroids are many times life threatening. I know this for a personal fact. I abused anabolic steroids for 5 years. The most candid person I spoke to was a recovering cocaine addict who told me that steroids were 10 times harder for him to kick than cocaine. They are highly addictive in the psychological arena, which is a sad irony due to the fact that the side effects which take many lives with steroids are those of depression and anxiety.
In my days of using, I did it so that I could get big and STAY big while I was a pro wrestler. In the wrestling dressing rooms, steroids were like candy. They came across from Mexico and were very cheap. Of the guys that I knew personally, 100% of them had either used steroids at one time or was a regular on the juice. It was tacitly encouraged by promoters, who wanted bigger and stronger workers for the crowds to see.
When I first started using them in 1983 I was 135 pounds. Two years later, I was 235 pounds and began wrestling sometime in 1985. I loved the business, but if I had to go back and do it again, I would have gone natural and taken a bit longer.
Testicular atrophy, depression, liver damage, cancer and other disorders are common among long term users. Today, I am the shell of a man I was before destroying my body with steroids. My lumbar spine is worn out, through the effects of wrestling and likely the steroids that weakened connective tissue during that time. What I suffer today, began with the first needle jab back in May of 1983.
I am not telling you this for pity, because I did this to myself. I am encouraging you to support your school, college and professional athletic programs to eliminate drug abuse. Your child or grandchild’s life may depend on it some day. These are potent, harmful drugs that are illegal for a reason. Hopefully, the wellness programs of the NFL, NBA, WWE and all other sports are sincere. I would never wish my condition on my worst enemy, especially if it can be prevented.
Saturday, June 06, 2009
Let's play "Imagine". It's easy if you try....
You are invited to attend a very special wedding. In fact, couples are practically willing to sell their firstborn son to merely attend the wedding reception. As the day approaches the men pull out their best tuxedo and upgrade to the Senator John Edwards haircut. The women? Well, they are absolutely the meanest feral cats on the planet as they visit international designers to assure their own dress is one-of-a-kind. And hats? Talk about HATS! Of course the women publicly state they do not wish to outshine the bride, but secretly hope at least a glimpse of their own face will be seen in the pictures which splash across the society pages of newspapers the following day.
The wedding planner assures that the events of the day move along without a hitch and as it is such a beautiful wedding, each guest returns home with a special memory of their own. I have my own happy memory, and yes, it was the woman with "the hat". smile
But almost before the wedding gifts are acknowledged and the groom returns from the honeymoon with his new bride the unheard of, actually happens! Word is getting out, and it is certainly salacious. Now this is the stuff of real gossip! It seems the bride has more than a few flaws! And the actual delivery boy of the news is the groom himself! Ohhh, for those not invited to the wedding, this is indeed a wonderful moment! The new consort is socially inept. Clumsy as an ox. The groom can hardly bear to bring her out into public. And mistakes? God! If he had really known of her mistakes of the past, he would have kicked her to the curb and walked away. Did he mention that she has a large mole on her left breast?
Would you respect a man who spoke badly of his new bride? America is the new bride of whom I speak. President Barack Obama is the groom. Should he have any disappointments in his new bride they should be expressed in very private manner, and possibly only to a handful of trusted friends. America has her flaws. But love will shield the bride and her flaws from the prying eyes of the world.
I hope our President will learn how to treat his new bride in public. America may not be perfect. But when put on public display by our new President, she is deserving of respectful introduction. It seems like Barack Obama is spending a lot of time apologizing for his bride. Any apologies, should stay behind closed doors and not at open microphone. It just makes the groom look like he is in need of a good, clean shave for himself.
Friday, June 05, 2009
Mohammed was waiting for me with a briefcase at his side. Ordering a coffee for me and black tea for my friend I placed the drinks on our table. It was time to look at the pieces of his life. The previous few weeks had provided an oral history. Now it was time to examine the paper trail.
His grandfather’s ancestral village of Lifta, had long since been abandoned. A few ancestral homes dotting the hills are all which remain. He showed me several pictures of stone dwellings nestled into a barren landscape. These particular pictures seemed very important to him. He looked at me intently to see my reaction. We looked at a “family tree” of the village patriarchs, painstakingly put together by his father. The project took three months. “Here,” said Mohammed, pointing with his old finger, “this is my family name on the village tree.”
Moving to pictures of Jerusalem I was shown several large photos of an apartment building which still belongs to the family. It is near a modern bus terminal. Spreading a map on the table his finger pointed to an area near the Knesset. The home he lived in as a child was originally 150 yards from the edifice. “They knocked on our door in the middle of the night. We were given one hour to leave.”
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) gives the definition of a Palestine refugee as “any person whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948 and who lost their home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” UNRWA registration cards show the names of his family members. UNICEF “milk cards” issued in Amman, Jordan which allowed his family food rations followed, sporting neat little boxes checked off with an "x" to show the family food allotments.
I saw a picture of Mohammed's high school in Amman. At the time, Amman had only two high schools available. It took many years for Mohammed to receive a seat in a school and then finish the course work. We admired a copy of his diploma from the University of Damascus where he was awarded a law degree.
I saw pictures of the party for his wedding. In typical fashion, the picture was of all of the men celebrating with him. The womenfolk, were having a party of their own in separate quarters. Pictures of his wife, now deceased and his children (eight in number) followed. They live in east Jerusalem and Jordan, within the United States.
Mohammed pulled out a small bottle wrapped in foil. Opening the bottle he poured a coarse reddish brown dirt onto the foil and said, “Smell it. This was from our home.” I smelled it and it had no odor. “Holy soil, this is holy soil,” he said. He then carefully poured the dirt back in the bottle and capped it, placing it back into his briefcase. He pulled out another piece of foil and showed me two rocks. These, the rocks from the land which formerly belonged to them. The last time he went to Jerusalem he sat on a bench and wept. He asked Allah for justice. He showed me the map again. The Knesset was surrounded with green, just as the pictures he had shown me. Trees, beautiful trees. “They planted trees to make us forget the land was ours. We will never forget.”
We spoke of Hamas, Gaza, things which I will not share. His brown eyes filled with tears when he told me a childhood story regarding the death of a brother. I cried with him. You don’t have to agree with a person's total assessment to shed a tear with them. You take a moment to share compassionate humanity. It is o.k. to do that, you know. So I cried with him.
Every meeting I have simply stated the same thing to Mohammed: "It is not realistic to consider that you will get the land back. It has been sixty years. You cannot go back, you must move forward." He responds, “We will wait.”
This time, I took the conversation a bit further. “Mohammed”, I said, “if all this had not happened you and I would not be seated here right at this moment in time. Your life has been interesting and full. But again, you will not get the land back.”
His reply is again the same. It is unwavering and sure. He straightens a bit in the chair and I see the resolve in his eyes. “We will wait.”
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Ruben Studdard. Does the name evoke a memory? Ruben Studdard was the winner of the second season of American Idol.
In a way, the plethora of "reality television" shows which feed the emotional needs of a generation of bored pop culture aficionados is somewhat of an old-fashioned showboat experience. But this time the showboat has docked, and Susan Boyle is a casualty. Rushed by ambulance to a clinic for "exhaustion", any healthcare professional will question whether exhaustion is merely a convenient cover for an emotional breakdown or for that matter, a botched suicide attempt.
Personally, it is a good thing she is hospitalized. Larry King, of CNN, has spit on her while she is down, giving a "thumbs up" to her "sex tape". Could someone shove the man off the top deck of the media showboat now? What he has done, is extremely distasteful.
A beautiful smile can be a lovely mask for sorrow. We all have hopes and dreams, things which when we are young, seemed attainable in life. But life can play out on a different stage than the one of our imagination. For some, life plays out like a Greek tragedy. And in the surreal world of American Idol and Britain's got Talent vulnerable hope can be dashed upon the rocks.
In the end, the fame offered by these shows is only a micron in lifetime-length for most participants. But for women like Susan, the micron of hope has allowed for a depth of despair. My prayers, are with this lovely, talented woman.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
If you could hold back your emotions during the first 20 minutes of "Saving Private Ryan", you're stronger than I am. I remember walking out of the theater and seeing war veterans wiping their eyes. The realism of that film and the real-life patriotism of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg formed a perfect storm of awareness of what happened on that hallowed day.
President Obama will be in France on June 6 in observation of the anniversary of the date when we stormed the beaches of Normandy. I heard early buzz that Queen Elizabeth was snubbed, by not having been invited to attend scheduled events. The significance of her office and the aspects of war she personally experienced should have put her at the top of the list. Footage of her parents in the bombed out sections of London, and their refusal to send their two princess daughters abroad, are representative of the UK's resolve.
This Saturday, think about our Marines being gunned down before they could hit the ground. The water running red with blood. Our men moving the line forward and advancing into the countryside and hedgerows. Tired men staying alert for days.
This 65th anniversary of D-Day, think about our present-day troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are fighting battles that, in the perspective of history, may be of bigger consequence to the world than the last World War.
Marine Corps Times
Monday, June 01, 2009
The blog will stand down for Tuesday as the flag is flown at half staff for the assassination of an Army-Navy recruiter on U.S. soil, and the wounding of a second soldier.
I would like to come in with a classic "Swofford Unleashed". My capabilities are equal to the task. My uniform and rank, require restraint. For the moment, the pen will not unleash as the sword. Instead, I leave you with my tears.
LCDR Tammy Swofford, USNR, NC
"We've got a unique opportunity to reboot America's image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular. So we need to take advantage of that."
-Barack Hussein Obama (December '08)
It must be said, that like the breaking of a great dam, the American descent into Marxism is happening with breath taking speed, against the back drop of a passive, hapless sheeple, excuse me dear reader, I meant people.
-Stanislav Mishin, (mat-rodina.blogspot.com, via Pravda)
I have to admit it. I HAVE had this feeling before. Oh, I tried to write it off as panic from having once again immersed myself in "the news" after some time. There is a dread, a slow-motion pseudo-paralytic acceptance, that sweeps over you. Agent Smith explained it to Neo, in "The Matrix" as "the sound of inevitability, the sound of ...your death."
For me, it was watching the final scenes in "Leaving Las Vegas". If you've seen it you know too. A hauntingly well-made film, the director drags you...immobilized in a spider's venom intoxication... through the last days of the life of an alcoholic hell-bent on drinking himself to death. Nicolas Cage and Elizabeth Shue are fantastic in their roles and yet you are helpless...hoping and wanting for that one turn or twist where the drunk and the hooker have an epiphany and love makes him change his mind...helpless knowing the end has no white horse or hero.
It is this feeling that consumes me when reading the news in today's insane, upside-down world.
So, ... Our new President wanted to "reboot" America's image in the world, and the Muslim world in particular. We can certainly say he's doing that. Until he nominated Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, I forgot we had two other branches of government. Who needs 'em anyway? Can anyone say "Judge Janice Rogers Brown"?
Hey, you know what Obama's favorite play in baseball is? The "Check-Swing". Know why?...the field umpire makes policy.
Focus, Bob, focus...
Before I get back to American leaders prostrating themselves (and our nation), allow me to share an actual snip it or two of "world opinion" on Barack Obama's "New and Improved" United States of America. I hit the Drudge Report this morning, as I often do, looking for a path to interestingness. The Great Aggregator never disappoints. At center column just below a "super laser" image and just above a screaming North Korean soldier, my eyes snapped to the following headline:
Not being an every day connoisseur of Russian journalism...do you think the Kremlin does their own chirons just like White House TV?...I was hesitant. But holy crap if this story didn't lay a lot of things right out there on the table with gravy. I never thought I would see myself reading the passionate writings of a Russian nationalist expressing sorrow, even if mockingly, for MY loss of freedom. I would urge the readers to take in both pages of Pravda's republishing of the Mat Rodina blogspot article. The chest-pumping "look at YOU now!" piece is headlined "American Capitalism Gone With a Whimper". The author saves plenty of scorn for a dumbed-down education system, pop-culture obsessed voters and "Mega Church" preachers selling out to "pseudo-Marxist" politicians.
Ouch. I think that one left a mark.
By the way, with all of the banner ads of bikini stuff and bare hindquarters on that site it's my curse in life to not be able to shake the image of grappling Sumo Wrestlers. Arrrrgh! Imagine that! Russians are ridiculing US because the government is taking on too much power and dictating policy and human resources decisions to private companies.
Step up one link back on the Drudge site and you'll be treated to a nice little story about Barack's buddy Hugo would like to give the American President Vladimir Lenin’s political work ‘What Is To Be Done?’ to follow up his gift of "The Open Veins of Latin America" by Eduardo Galeano. It was rumored Chavez wanted to give him an Ipod with some of Hugo's own speeches on it, but the dictator felt that would be too self-aggrandizing. He's a humble dude.
So while Russian journalists and bloggers are laughing at us, and while Hugo Chavez is mentoring his understudy on proper election "reform" ideas, North Korea and Iran are flexing. Arabs are demanding measurable deliverables to follow "the big bow", and Mr. $25,000 date night is ready to roll over for anyone but American conservatives and one-time ally Israel. Bibi Netanyahu might truly be feeling like Vincent Price in "The Last Man on Earth" these days. Somewhere Jimmy Carter is sitting back drinking a skunky beer, reminiscing about deposing the Shah, and throwing darts at Ronald Reagan and Sarah Palin pictures.
The international sabres are rattling, Mr. president. Will you do as many democrats have done before you...create chaos and leave the cleanup to conservatives in your wake? You will get much of what you want, but at what cost?
Chances are that we could be measuring THIS president's misery index in Rads.